Thomas Bignell, 1743

1743 (Stow) – 1800 (Upper Swell)

Upper Swell church and manor house

Thomas ‘Bignal’ Pitman was baptised at Stow on 12 April 1743, his father being Thomas Pitman. Although not named in the register, his mother would have been Mary Bignell who married Thomas at Stow on 16th March 1727/8. Bignell seems to have been the generally accepted spelling of her surname, which was also given to one of their daughters, named simply ‘Bignell’

We have managed to unearth very little information about the life of this Thomas Bignell Pitman (we know of three others: his son, his grandson, and his great grandson), but in 1795 he was living in Over Swell, now Upper Swell, a small village a mile or so north-west of Stow. Family papers dating from a century later show that they considered him to have been “lord of the manor”: perhaps he bought this in 1784, when “The Manor or Lordship of Upper Swell, near Stow” was advertised for sale in various newspapers such as the General Evening Post (24 July). There is a memorial to Thomas Pitman in the floor of the nave of the church at Upper Swell (which is adjacent to the Manor House), which reads:

Church interior, with sunlight falling on Thomas
   Pitman’s memorial

To the Memory of
Thomas Pitman
Who departed this life
March 13th 1800
Aged 57 years

Thomas seems not to have used his middle name, even in official documents such as his will, written in January 1800, and never married, although he had a son, baptised Thomas Bignel Pitman Adams, described in the Stow parish register as “illegitimate son of Susanna Adams”. Young Thomas is acknowledged in his father’s will as “my son Thomas Pittman, child of Susan Adams”, and seems to have been generally known as Thomas Bignell Pitman.

Marriage: none

Thomas Bignell Pitman (son of Susan Adams)